Saturday, 26 December 2015

Kerry McCarthy's response to the unpublished BBC consultation results

As it is Christmas, I am sure that much of the UK is
currently enjoying its annual TV fest! Perhaps you still spent ages methodically flipping through the TV listing magazines highlighting, in separate colours, which programmes to watch live, which to record for later, and where three channel clashes mean something must be missed, but will be repeated at ridiculous o'clock in the morning next week. Perhaps your super new technology means all those pens are now obsolete?

Whatever your viewing system, at some point most of us will find ourselves enjoying a BBC programme of one sort or another, but how many of us are really aware of the threat posed to our BBC by Murdoch's friends, the Tory Party? Just yesterday news was published of the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale's attendance, together with David Cameron, at Murdoch's private Christmas party. These men aren't even bothering to hide their hypocrisy any more!

Anyway, several weeks ago I gave my opinions to a Government consultation regarding the future of the BBC. The results should have been published by now, but I guess maybe too many of us didn't give the hoped-for answers because there's no sign of it. 38 Degrees sent an email asking for people to contact their MPs asking they put pressure on John Whittingdale to publish the consultation results. I heard back from my MP, Kerry McCarthy, just after noon on Christmas Eve(!) and this is her response:

"Thank you very much for contacting me recently regarding the outcomes of the BBC

Like you, I feel that the BBC is one of our greatest cultural institutions – it provides a crucial foundation for our creative industries in the UK, and must be protected.

As you will be aware, the Government held the BBC Charter Review public consultation between the 16th of July and the 8th of October 2015. This sought to examine the BBC’s mission, purpose, and values, what the BBC does in terms of its scale and scope, BBC funding, and BBC governance and regulation. As of yet, the Government has not published the results of this consultation. This, along with John Whittingdale’s statement that BBC funding is still dependant on the result of the consultation, has cast significant doubt on the Government’s plans, and so I share your concerns over the delay we are facing.

While I accept that the BBC is in need of reform, particularly with regard to how it’s governed, and how representative it is of 21st century Britain, I am also very concerned at how the Government appears to be going to war with the BBC. The Government’s actions of late are discouraging, and imply to me that the BBC is at genuine risk.

The BBC is an excellent, universal broadcaster that informs, educates, and entertains, and really provides something for everyone. As such, investment in the BBC must be maintained. You may know that the Government has already confirmed that the BBC will take on the cost of free TV licenses for over-75s, but as well as this, the Government has stated that the licence fee level is ‘not settled.’ All of this is particularly worrying as I feel it will compromise BBC services and their quality, while also putting jobs at risk. It is my opinion that the Government should not renege on the licence fee agreement – the licence fee should remain for the full period of the next Charter with a CPI inflation rise as promised.

Related proposals that the Government are considering include narrowing the remit of the BBC to prevent it from making some of its most popular shows – I feel this would be a mistake, and that it is inappropriate for the Government to attempt to prevent the BBC from making programmes that people genuinely enjoy watching. Similarly, I reject rumoured plans of reduced news output.

Quite frankly, the Government’s actions challenge the very principle of public service broadcasting. We must ensure that the BBC remains independent from the Government, particularly as I am completely unconvinced that the Government’s proposals are in line with public interest. In fact, I think that cuts to the BBC would jeopardise both the success of the UK’s creative industries, and the state of the wider economy, too.

Please rest assured that while we wait for the outcome of the consultation, I will contact John Whittingdale on your behalf to raise your concerns. The Labour Party is opposed to any attempts to diminish or dismantle the BBC, and my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have pledged to work with the creative industries and trade unions to defend the BBC.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely
Kerry McCarthy
Labour MP for Bristol East

Twitter: @kerryMP

Video produced by 38 Degrees

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